Capturing the Pirate's Heart (The Emerald Quest Book 1)

BOOK: Capturing the Pirate's Heart (The Emerald Quest Book 1)
11.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capturing the Pirate’s
Heart

By

Annie Seaton

 

 

The Emerald Quest

Book 1

 

 

Capturing the Pirate’s Heart

Copyright © November 2014, Annie Seaton.

 

NOTE: This book is a work of fiction. The names,
characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or
have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations
is entirely coincidental.

Acknowledgments

 

Working with a group of three other authors separated by distance
and in Jane’s case, across the sea, to create a series of books that spans four
centuries,

 has been a wonderful experience. The process has been
uplifting for me and reaffirmed the bonds between authors working across the
world in this digital age.

Jane Beckenham, Susanne Bellamy and Sara Hantz—you rock!

Let’s do it again!

Dedication

 

My lifelong love of history has been enriched by reading historical
fiction over the years. Authors like Mary Stewart, Sharon Penman Anya Seton and
Diana Gabaldon

 are some of the wonderful authors who have fed and nurtured my
love of other historical periods, and must be acknowledged as key influences in
my writing journey.

To all of the historical authors I have read and loved over many
years, this book is dedicated to you.

Prologue

New
Orleans 1794

 

Josephine du Bois closed the door quietly and stepped into the
inner courtyard of the mansion on Rue Toulouse in New Orleans. As the violet
sky of dusk deepened into full darkness, the chirping of the cicadas was
replaced by the croaking of frogs in the cypress swamp across the garden. The
sounds were familiar to her; she would spend many hours in the cemetery which
divided the street from the swamp. She waited, her head tilted to the side. The
wind lulled and the sounds of the night stopped suddenly, as if the conductor
orchestrating the chorus of nature had lowered his baton.

She would be patient. The night
had eyes. Despite the garden being in the center of the sprawling timber
building, she must be certain no one was watching when she buried the parcel
she clutched tightly to her chest. But fear still gripped her in its cold
hands. No matter if the owl perched low in the branches of the magnolia tree
spreading across the opening above her head, stared at her with hollow eyes, or
the frogs swimming in the ponds on the side of the courtyard sensed her
presence. There were no houses to the east as the great conflagration of 1788
had destroyed the stately homes of her neighbors so no human eyes could watch
her from high windows as she completed her task.

 

Josephine limped across to the
circular brick garden and caught her breath as the arthritic pain gripped her
hip like a vice. When Francois had claimed this land for them in 1769 and built
their home, the Spanish style of an inner courtyard had appealed. It had been
in the early days of their marriage when all was well.

Despite the pain, she smiled.
Francois had been trying to keep in favor with the Spanish governor until the
cowardly official had fled back to Spain the following year, but the inner
garden had served her well in the many years since then. Now the heady
fragrance of the late flowering gardenias pleased her, yet her heart ached with
memories. The courtyard was the only place she could bear to bury her treasure.

Her only regret was that she
could not tell her family back in England where she was hiding it. The risk of
putting the hiding place in writing, and chancing discovery was too great.
However, her nephew, Thomas was an educated gentleman. He would surely be able
to interpret the cryptic words she had penned in her diary.

Josephine kneeled in the center
of the pavers and bit her lip as the pain shot down her leg. Carefully placing
the precious parcel on the ground beside her, she closed her eyes until the
pain eased, and raised a shaking hand to wipe the perspiration from her eyes.
Earlier in the day she had innocently placed a small wooden-handled dibber in
her gardening basket next to the wrought iron gate, and instructed the slave
who labored in the garden to leave the small spade beside the fountain. It was
not unusual, as Josephine had spent many hours in the garden over the past five
years. Since Francois and Ivan had died, her garden, her memories, and visiting
the cemetery had filled her days.

The pavers in the center of the
ornate indoor garden were spaced more widely than those around the outside edge
and she leaned forward, testing the movement of them with her fingers. The
brick moved a little and she sighed with relief as she reached for the dibber.

This garden held many precious
memories for her, and it was not only the privacy that had led her to choose it
as a safe place to hide her parcel. The first time she had seen Ivan, she had
been on her knees tending this very garden. Francois had frowned at the sight
of his wife on her knees digging in the dirt like a slave. When she had become
aware he was not alone on that fateful day, she had lifted her gaze to meet the
hooded eyes of the dark-haired man standing beside her husband.

A sob caught in her throat as
she pushed the narrow end of the dibber beneath the paving brick and lifted it
slowly. She picked it up and turned it over and placed it on the low wall of
the edge of the fountain in front of her. Not even the worms writhing in the
soil could distract her from her mission.

She must ensure it was well
hidden. Josephine held scant regard for what may happen to her but she had
promised Ivan she would keep it safe. The promise she had made him before he
had died had stayed with her, and the events of the past week had confirmed his
last words to her.

They will come.

It had been five years, but
someone must have finally noticed the necklace that graced her neck in the
portrait in La Salle Conde Theater. Dear Francois had believed it was a family
heirloom from her Bellerose great-grandmother, and she had worn it in the
portrait he had commissioned. She’d not been able to disillusion him with the
truth.

For two hours she toiled through
the still of the night. By the time she had removed the pavers and dug a deep
hole, the skin on her fingers was rubbed raw and bleeding, and burning pain
sliced through her back. Finally the hole was deep enough, and she set the
small spade aside.

Easing up slowly from her
haunches, she straightened, taking in deep breaths until the pain faded. The
parcel sat on the ground next to the dibber but Josephine couldn’t bring
herself to pick it up yet, knowing it would be the last time she would see it.
The final connection to Ivan would be broken. A deep ache, which was not
physical, filled her chest and her vision clouded with unshed tears. She
brushed them away impatiently.

I have the rest of my life to
shed tears.

She moved slowly across to a
large bentwood chest near the door where she had made her preparations earlier
in the week. The leather straps came away easily and she reached in for the
ceramic crock and lifted it out. She carried it carefully across to the low
wall next to the fountain and removed the stopper, before reaching in and
retrieving the small Welsh tin box that Francois had brought home from one of his
trips to Philadelphia. It fitted into the bottom of the crock perfectly.

Finally Josephine turned to the
parcel and stared at it for a long while, before opening the wax-coated linen
cloth. She allowed the tears to fall as she slowly pushed the stiff fabric
aside while the merry tinkling of the water seemed to mock her sadness.

At last everything was ready.
She would allow herself one last look before she wrapped the cloth around it,
ready to place it inside the crock and bury it deep beneath the pavers. Spreading
the cloth on the low wall beside the fountain, she arranged the contents in the
circle which had graced her throat in years gone by.

As Josephine stared down, the
clouds cleared the moon through the magnolia tree above and a dazzling rainbow
danced across the trickling water of the fountain as a necklace of twenty eight
brilliant emeralds surrounded by a myriad of diamonds caught the light from the
full moon.

Chapter One

New
Orleans

 September
1796

 

Even after a decade at sea,
Sébastien Leclerc was no closer to understanding the appeal of living on the
ocean. Unlike his crew, who understood becoming a sailor meant uprooting their
life and spending most of their time at sea, Sébastien was not enamored with a
mariner’s life. Because of the lucrative rewards, it attracted a mix of men who
seemed to ignore the high risk of ending up on the bottom of the ocean floor.

One more mission, one last intercept, and Sébastien’s dream of
going to Hawaii to start his own sugar plantation would come to fruition. Over
the years the guilt he had borne for Lisette’s death had lessened, and
Sébastien accepted that his actions had merely been those of a young man in
love…or lust. Lisette’s father had been a wealthy sugar merchant, and she had
been spoiled with everything she could want in life— except her independence.
She had enticed Sébastien to assist her in her quest to flee her stern father.
Sébastien’s desire had blinded him to the dangers of a young woman walking
alone through Santo Domingo in the dead of night. He had agreed to meet her at
the wharf to travel to New Orleans but she had been kidnapped before he had
arrived. It was believed she had been taken by one of the pirate captains in
the town and her father had held him responsible.

One more mission, one more month
and if all went to plan, his life would change. He would be away from this life
where he witnessed servitude and despair every day. One thing Sébastien
promised himself, his plantation would be worked by free men. Maybe, just
maybe, the scars of the past, and Lisette’s fate would leave him and he could
settle and raise a family.

Time heals.
Sébastien closed his eyes. He
could almost hear the voice of Lucy, the old, dark-skinned cook on their
plantation back in Santo Domingo. When Lisette had been taken by the slave
traders as she had waited for him at the harbor, and had died on the vessel, he
had thought his own life had come to an end. His poor choices as a very young
man had led to the death of the young woman he’d loved.

As the winter months drew
closer, the increasing cold of the salt-laden breeze warned of the icy winds
which would follow. It was time to take safe haven in the harbor and embellish
his reputation in the taverns along the Mississippi delta where his
half-brother, Jean-Luc, ran the headquarters of the family commercial business
in the Rue Royale in New Orleans. It was also well past time to pay his brother
a visit; he had avoided him on his past two stays in port. Sébastien was close
to having enough gold put away to escape this duty he loathed.

A visit, one more mission and
freedom to pursue his own life.

A sudden gust snapped the sails
and the pungent aroma of damp wood surrounded him. Closing his eyes for a brief
moment, he longed for a breeze free of salt, and ground that stood firm beneath
his feet.

“Captain?”

Sébastien opened his eyes and
swiveled around. The soft voice of one of the slaves they had seized from a
British slave trader this voyage interrupted his musing. “You have turned the
ship to the land?”

Sébastien nodded. “Yes, it is
time to trade our cargo.”

“And what of us?” The man’s
voice was uncertain. “Shall we be traded also?”

Sébastien shrugged and looked
the man up and down. There were fifteen slaves on the ship and none knew the
true purpose of his business. They assumed they would be put to work on one of
the sugar plantations in Louisiana.

To all onlookers, apart from his
crew, Sébastien was a river captain, plying his trade between the sugar
plantations on the Mississippi River. The presence of slaves on his vessel when
they berthed fuelled the rumors that the Leclerc brothers were somehow involved
in the slave trade. No one knew of their true business apart from the governor
and his aide-de-camp. Even Jean-Luc was not privy to the details of the
missions of the vessel he owned jointly with his half-brother. Secrecy was of
the essence and the impact of their successful forays was beginning to be felt.

He’d heard the rumors. The
latest scuttlebutt from the taverns on the Louisiana coast explained the
occasional disappearance of their trader from the regular river trade. They
told of Sébastien and his crew marauding the seas between the Delta and the
Gulf, seizing bounty as they went; both cargo and slaves, and trading the
bounty once they got to the colonies. It was far from the truth and the slaves
they rescued as they plied their trade to the British West Indies were either
sent back to Africa, or given a choice as soon as they docked in New Orleans.
It was a town where those of colored, quadroon and mulatto heritage lived.
Sometimes they chose to stay on his vessel and work the sugar trade. Under the
new Spanish law called 
coartación
, they could even buy their
freedom. It was the least he could do to end the slave trade he abhorred.

 The problem was Jean-Luc,
his half-brother, who was more concerned with increasing his wealth than
worrying about the fate of a few men…slaves or otherwise. Jean-Luc was the
progeny of a brief, illicit liaison Sébastien’s mother had tried to hide.
Jeannie, their mother, had told the truth about Jean-Luc’s father on her death
bed, but  Jean-Luc had been raised in the household in San Domingo.

 Much to Sébastien’s
disgust, the slave trade in Louisiana had become more lucrative over the past
few months due to the growth of the cotton plantations after the invention of
the cotton gin and he doubted whether Jean-Luc would agree to him keeping these
fifteen men on his ship. They had refitted the two hundred ton Spanish square
rigger during the last stay in Barataria Bay and it was in need of more crew.
It would suit him well to take on some more strong men, if they were willing to
work for him. He was intending to have a frank discussion with the Spanish
governor about the nature of Jean-Luc’s intentions. He had a meeting with
Carondelet this very night and he knew the intelligence he had to report would
not be well received.

In the meantime he must sort the
current situation and placate his brother. Of prime importance was the
retrieval of the money owing to him by both the governor, and his half-brother,
before the inevitable falling out with Jean-Luc.

Now the man in front of him
stood still and straight, and bowed his head respectfully. His African black
skin glistened in the sunlight. Sébastien narrowed his eyes. He never trusted;
who knew what this man had heard.

“And what would you have me do
with you and your friends?” It was an opportunity to embellish his reputation.
The more people who were wary of him and his crew, and wondered about their
true activities, suited him. “Mayhap I am in need of a strong crew when we
continue our travels? There are some fine ships filled with enticing cargo down
in the Gulf. Perhaps you would prefer to stay on my ship than toil in the sugar
fields of the colonies?”

The merchant ship they had
seized had been en route to England, and he had generously allowed it to
continue after removing a little of its sugar cargo as well as the fifteen
slaves.

“Yes, we are strong and the
‘Maiden’ is a beautiful ship.” The man lifted his head and held his gaze.

“Your language is of a high
standard for a captured slave?” He frowned at the African man.

“My friends and I were merchants
in Accra on the Gold Coast but we were kidnapped by the rogue slave traders.
They gave no thought to who they captured. As long as they fill their slave
markets with men who are strong and can toil, they pay no heed.”

Sébastien’s interest was piqued.
“So how did you get on the British ship and arrive in the American colonies?”

The tall man looked at him
without answering and Sébastien turned away. It was bad enough for the man that
he was here away from all he knew. He would interrogate him no further.

Good Christ, he hated this slave
trade with a passion and the sooner he could end his current intelligence work,
the better. Sébastien turned and stared across the prow of the boat as the crew
toiled with the sails. Seaman were perched in the rigging and held hands to shield
their eyes in the bright sunlight. The command to turn back to Bay St Louis had
been issued and they were keen to return to the land, to frequent the taverns.

“Yes, the “Maiden’ is a fine
vessel.” He turned away from the man, ignoring his words about his capture. “I
shall advise you of your fate when we dock.”

BOOK: Capturing the Pirate's Heart (The Emerald Quest Book 1)
11.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Tablet of Destinies by Traci Harding
Truth Game by Anna Staniszewski
The Execution by Dick Wolf
The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden
My Name Is Not Easy by Edwardson, Debby Dahl
Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself by Zachary Anderegg
The Osage Orange Tree by William Stafford
Bombs Away by John Steinbeck